Demotion Announced, Election Tactics Denounced In Dodge County Sheriff’s Race

(Juneau) Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt is accusing his opponent in the August Republican primary of lying on job applications. Mark Colker applied for a job as a deputy with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office in 2020. Schmidt says he stayed out of the background investigation because Colker was renting property from him. The job application was rejected, Schmidt says, because his chief deputy determined the document was missing some information while including other information that (quote) “seemed to be deceptive.”

“As I talked to the chief deputy I said, ‘you need to talk to the district attorney and you need to do something separate from me to make a decision on how this is going to be handled’,” Schmidt explained on WBEV’s Community Comment, “the decision was made that we have to release this information to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office so that they can make a decision.”

Schmidt contends the “deceptive” information dates back to Colker’s time in the Waupun Police Department in 2001-2002. He says that Colker was fired over an excessive use of force incident. The sheriff says his opponent lied on job applications and related forms with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office in 2003 and again in 2021 when asked if he was ever suspended, discharged or asked to resign. That resulted in an internal investigation and a determination from the Winnebago County District Attorney, which Schmidt cited on Community Comment.

“’The conclusion that Colker was untruthful in the investigation was a reasonable one’,” Schmidt says reading from the DA’s summary, “Mr. Colker has been demoted in Winnebago County, is no longer a law enforcement officer, Mr. Colker is a civilian booking clerk. There’s a reason for that and that is because Winnebago County has deemed that he is no longer eligible to be a law enforcement officer.”

Colker was reassigned as a booking agent in June. He denies any excessive use of force incidents in his 24-year career. He says the investigation in Waupun was completed after he left the agency, he was never charged, never disciplined and never fired. Colker says he had no reason to believe that the incident would not be disclosed during a background check since it was not covered in the non-disclosure. Colker accuses Schmidt of using his office to influence the outcome of the election by using his chief deputy to file a complaint with Winnebago County.

Schmidt also cites a June 2002 letter from then-Waupun Police Chief Thomas Winscher which states Colker was terminated while on probation. That same letter also gives Colker an option to resign by July 3. A February 2022 letter from Waupun Deputy Chief Jeremy Rasch states Colker “resigned to pursue private business interests.” Colker calls the incumbents accusations “a lie.”

The information from Dodge County resulted in Colker being placed on what is called the “Brady List,” a database of police officers involved with misconduct, criminal convictions, or some other type of issue placing their credibility into question. The Brady List does not result in termination but Schmidt says it would have to be disclosed in a courtroom making his opponent an unreliable witness. He says inclusion on the list disqualifies Colker from being an officer.

In his statement, Colker acknowledges that the Winnebago County DA, in placing him on the Brady List, felt that he should have disclosed this incident when he was hired in 2003. But Colker counters that the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office has four sworn staff on the Brady List including two the sheriff promoted and one who was already on the list when hired.

Schmidt says, in his opinion, it is “questionable that any one of them would be on the list in the first place” and says that “none of the four individuals have been put on the list for offenses that are as egregious as what [his] opponent has been disciplined for.”

“That is OK for [Schmidt], just not for me,” Colker says, “This is politically motivated at its core.”  

Colker has his own accusations against Schmidt, including his role in a federal lawsuit for illegal detention of an inmate that is on appeal, an issue we will take a closer look at as we continue our coverage of the Dodge County Sheriff’s race during our newscasts Wednesday.